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Mooninites put Boston in a panic

A guerrilla marketing campaign for an upcoming film based on the Cartoon Network show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" sparked terrorism fears--and significant transportation disruptions--in Boston last week when citizens reported suspicious devices attached to bridges and other structures.

It turned out the devices were electronic light boards featuring one of the series characters--extraterrestrial miscreants known as Mooninites--giving passersby the middle finger.

Boston officials replied in kind.

In a statement, Mayor Thomas M. Menino said: "It is outrageous, in a post-9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme. I am prepared to take any and all legal action against (Cartoon Network parent) Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates" for city expense to respond in the case.

Two people responsible for installing the ads pleaded not guilty to charges that they intended to create panic by placing hoax devices, according to media reports.

As for recouping the estimated $1 million bill for the city's response to the scare, the Massachusetts Attorney General's office issued a statement Friday noting that Turner has offered to pay some costs incurred by Boston and surrounding areas. A Turner Broadcasting spokeswoman had no comment.

Interference Inc., the New York marketing firm Turner hired to create the ad campaign, issued a statement on its Web site apologizing for the incident.

Similar devices placed in other cities caused no disruptions.

Ex-Broncos star settles insurer suit

Former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis has settled a lawsuit he brought against his homeowner insurer, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co., which refused to defend him in a 2005 scuffle at an exclusive post-Emmy Awards party in Hollywood.

The 1998 Super Bowl MVP says a bouncer roughed him up at the Tropicana bar, capping a "rude encounter" between a black acquaintance and a bar employee who "condescendingly" told the acquaintance not to speak to a white waitress at the party, court papers say.

Mr. Davis alleges he confronted the employee and a scuffle ensued in which Tropicana bouncers wrestled him to the floor--leaving Mr. Davis and a bouncer injured.

Mr. Davis sued multiple parties after the incident including the Tropicana and bouncer Gus Chacon on battery and emotional distress, among other charges. Court records do not specify injuries, but one press report said Mr. Davis suffered a bruised neck and damage to his surgically repaired hip.

Mr. Chacon countersued, claiming that Mr. Davis struck him multiple times and that he suffered a severe cut to his wrist.

Boston-based Liberty Mutual denied coverage on the cross-complaint against Mr. Davis, claiming the policy excluded bodily injury or damage "expected or intended by the insured."

Mr. Davis, arguing his actions "were nothing more than a use of reasonable force to protect himself from (Mr.) Chacon's surprise physical and forceful attack," sued Liberty Mutual last year for breach of contract and other claims.

He and the insurer reached a confidential settlement last month, confirmed Mr. Davis' attorney, Kirk A. Pasich of Dickstein Shapiro L.L.P., and Liberty Mutual.

A hearing in Mr. Davis' assault and battery lawsuit was set for Feb. 5 in California Superior Court in Los Angeles.

Virtual world could pack real-life biz

One intriguing aspect of the Internet has been the creation of so-called "metaverses"--interactive virtual worlds where real people assume virtual identities and carry out parallel lives.

The name derives from Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash," in which real people live cyber lives in a cyber world larger than earth.

Probably the best known of today's offerings is Second Life, a 3-D metaverse with more than 3 million residents who act through animated "avatars."

Second Life plays up its commercial potential. Part of its Web site notes that "business opportunities do not stop at the virtual world. In Second Life, all Residents retain Intellectual Property rights over everything they convert in-world--in Second Life, and offline."

For example, "turn a series of screenshots into a graphic novel, and sell the rights to a real life comic publisher," the site says. After providing several examples, the site notes "not only is all this permitted--it's encouraged."

As virtual commerce explodes across the metaverse, a situation could arise like that of late 17th century England. After all, it was that period's commercial boom that gave rise to commercial insurance, notably Lloyd's of London.

In fact, if Second Life continues to grow at the pace it has since its 2003 start, the demand for commercial insurance may help assure that there will be great opportunities for virtual insurance agencies on just about every other virtual street corner in the metaverse.

Deal drugs, lose workers comp

Dealing cocaine may be illegal, but it is a form of employment just like working in a department store, Ohio's 10th District Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court last month determined that someone who is employed--even in an illegal endeavor--may not collect workers compensation permanent total disability benefits.

Henry Lynch, now 74, was convicted of drug trafficking in 1994 and 1997. He had been collecting benefits from a 1967 work injury, but following his 1997 conviction, the Industrial Commission of Ohio halted his disability compensation saying he was engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise that was "sustained remunerative employment." Mr. Lynch, hoping to continue collecting benefits while jailed, had argued that sustained remunerative employment does not include continuing criminal activity for profit in workers comp cases.

The appeals court, however, disagreed. "The department store employee who sells products offered by the employer is no different in terms of sustained activity from the employee of a drug dealer who sells crack cocaine on the dealer's behalf," the court ruled.

Contributing: Roberto Ceniceros, Louise Esola, Mark A. Hofmann, Sally Roberts, Matt Scroggins